The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series – Angel book 2 beginning with the POP! Goes Alaska letters
August 1957. I was a month away from my 6th birthday when I first met the forest surrounding the log house in Eagle River, Alaska. It was deep with lacey green ferns taller than I was. Fronds, light as air, swayed over my head brushing my hair, my cheeks. Fragile. So soft, the moist ground under layers of aging fallen leaves. I made no sound walking slowly around the yard among white papered trees with dark little spots and curling frail torn bark edges. Blue sky and shadow. Immediately I was a part of this land.
Quiet. No pavement. No traffic. We had left Los Angeles behind.
Splashing over stones and rotting branches, the creek down below at the bottom of the bank. Together our family walked the black earth gentle path down there. Climbing on fallen trees. Searching for berries round and red. Sour highbush cranberries. All of them the same. Shiny. Bunches easy to pick without stickers. Handfuls plucked with small fingertips, tumbling into my pail.
I would part with all I own to return there to that land if I could. Just to walk where I did when I was a child. To see and smell what I did then. To have my heart open again to all I knew. To find pussy willows soft and gray peeking out of their red winter wrappings. Fuzzy. Hopes of coming spring.
My oldest brother John left a week ago after his early March 2013 week’s visit with me. I had hoped that because of the current stage of my writings he and I could talk about our childhood. John so detests Mother that he refers to her as “the one who shall not be named” and has no desire to think or talk about his childhood. He has since told me that he is willing to help me verify the reality of our shared childhood in hell if I send him very specific questions that he can answer on paper over time.
I hate to further trouble him with my “project” about the “miserable childhood that was had by all.” I took the following notes during the very short discussion we had while we were together as I asked him if he remembered anything about the log house. John had turned seven six weeks before we arrived in Alaska:
I have forgotten and repressed my childhood so deep that I really don’t even like to think about it. I have very few memories at all.
The log house was on this little bluff right over the creek. I used to fish for trout in the little creek, threw a lot back in that probably didn’t make it. Sometimes I used cranberries instead of salmon eggs. I’m sure the fish knew the difference.
There was a well there in the laundry room off of the kitchen. In the floor, opened up a trap door with two hinges and there was a dark hole down there – a hand dug well. I’m sure right next to the creek it was water that filtered over from the creek. Hope it wasn’t the well we used, downstream from Vanover’s hog farm – all their dead hogs. They left them lying around.”
I have no conscious memory of the hole in the floor. I wish all six of us Lloyd children were free to share with one another our childhood memories good or bad. I crave the healing of our story as if a kind of redemption of the purity of our young innocence could be pulled out from the horrors we experienced, as if we can free ourselves from the rubble trauma heaped upon our lives.
Although I remember abuse, one of my prime motivations for writing my story is to locate my own experience of myself as a beautiful child living my life separate from Mother’s madness and the abuse I suffered from her. Traumatized children not only have great parts of their childhood stolen from them during ongoing trauma, but also often cannot freely return to their own memories of the goodness that was in us and in our own experience of our early life. If we are barred from remembering our own goodness as children we suffer from a perpetual theft of what is truly ours – and not our abusers’.
It was very difficult for me to watch my brother struggle with painful memories of his childhood. I know his agony. Yet his description of trout fishing in Meadow Creek by the log house is exactly the kind of wonderful memory that belongs to him. If we can’t return in memory to the joy and loves of our childhood because the trauma is still too overwhelming we are left only with the awareness of hardships we lived through without the grace of goodness present in our childhoods.
I asked my brother one more question, and that was the end of our conversation:
How do you feel about Mildred?
“Oh, God. I’ve already reached a point where my brain has started to freeze up. I couldn’t stand her. She was probably the most dislikable person I have ever known.”
Although Mother’s writings run “unmolested” with minimum commentary from me in the seven books of the Mildred’s Mountain series, I now set myself free to describe what I know of her mental illness and of its impact on me and my siblings. Because Mother’s Borderline Personality Disorder and its abusive psychosis continued to powerfully shape me throughout my childhood in Alaska until I left home at 18, I will insert my commentary about how I see patterns of her sickness appearing in her letters in this second book of The Dark Side of Mildred’s Mountain series. I emphasize parts of her letters using bold type, delete sections of her writings that are irrelevant to me and paraphrase her words where they provide important details related to my story.
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